And Jesus said to him, “’If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”

Mark 9: 23

Belief is not an easy thing to hold and to have. People are taught and trained to be skeptics about most things. It just seems natural to want to see the proof before we accept the validity of claims that others make or before we are willing to become vulnerable by trusting what is represented to us as being true or even as possible. In this situation, the trust that this father of a child has held in the capability of Jesus has been shaken by the inability of His disciples to get the job done. Now, the man asks for help from Jesus, but he does so with serious doubts expressed in his tone of voice and in his choice of words as he says, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” (Mk. 9: 22)

How normal and natural is it to hold out this sort of uncertainty in any number of situations that are encountered in life? This is even more reasonable when it comes to matters of the spirit and in the realm of the supernatural. It is hard to place trust and to have faith in things that we cannot readily see, touch, and evaluate. We want the proof before we open our hands in surrender or give our hearts in expectation of the results that are desired. This is the situation in the story of this man, his son, and Jesus. He is desperate to see the demon driven from his son; yet, he naturally holds onto a doubt that helps to guard his heart from the pain of disappointment. We all do this, and God is not put off by it, either. The Lord responds to our ifs with His emphatic, ”I can!” 

In fact, God’s capacity and His compassion far exceed our ability to imagine outcomes. He can and does heal all that is broken, and He removes from us everything that binds our spirits and holds our hearts captive. Even when our faith in Christ is minimal and our belief is shaky, He enters into the problem or the trial that we are experiencing, and He provides solution for the deeper issues that lie beneath what we are struggling with. The cure for what is troubling us may not be as dramatic as was the driving out of the demon from the boy, but it is just as real and as certain as was the Lord’s response to the boy’s condition. Jesus does not always cure the illness, repair the broken heart, or completely remove the pain and grief that we are experiencing. That form of healing is not necessarily the sort of thing that best serves our eternal needs or the requirements of God’s Kingdom. However, as we place our faith in Christ, we are brought into the presence of God, we are provided with the comfort and the consolation of His Spirit with us in the situation at hand, and we are given an unshakable assurance of the glory to come to us as we dwell for all time with Jesus. So, it is possible and even rational to expectantly say, “Jesus, I know that You can!”   

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But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;

   let them ever sing for joy,

and spread your protection over them,

   that those who love your name may exult in you.

Psalm 5: 11

There is something really strange going on here. It is the sort of thing that I cannot remember ever having seen in film or encountered in a book, either. The. Author is facing some sort of dangerous adversary, and it would seem that the opponent is gaining the upper hand in the moment; yet, this same imperiled person starts singing. The song that is sung is not one of those nervous and tenuous sorts of tunes that are intended to demonstrate courage and a calm heart but actually show the exact opposite, either. This is a song of joy, peace, contentment, and even one that speaks out about victory in the current situation long before any rational person would have seen that victory was possible. This is the type of song that may not be expressed in audible fashion, for it is a song that starts and that resides deep within the singer’s heart.

A song like this is something that is formed out of the words that God implants within His people. These lyrics are the hope, joy, peace, and confidence that are shaped up out of the eternal certainty that comes from knowing God through and by being in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet, this sort of knowledge of God is useful and helpful not only as assurance of life beyond this world but it is also something that can be relied upon to provide strength, wisdom, and courage to face into all of the challenges, fears, and risks that come our way during the process of living out our daily lives. The song on view here is individual and personal for each of us as we engage in walking through our days with the Lord, but it is also something that we can join together with other followers of Christ in singing. Christ invites us to join in His choir of faith that is continuously formed up by all people who know Him. The words to the songs that it sings are supplied through God’s Word and are made accessible to the chorus by the presence of the Holy Spirit in its midst. God is the author of these lyrics of joyous praise, the Spirit trains and coaches the singers in their deep meaning, and Christ is the director of this heaven-focused band.

All of this would sound great, but it would be practically useless if it were not for the reality of God’s involvement in the lives of people. We may not even realize the extent or the nature of His involvement in our days, but the Lord is with each of us in the various situations and circumstances that form up the substance and the structure of each of our days. This protection and care are usually not highly apparent, for God’s hand is operating all of the time in the background of our world as He holds together the fabric of this chaos-bound environment. Still, there are times when God and His ministering angels are the only truly rational answer to what has transpired in a moment or during the process of the day. Still, hard, harsh, and painful things happen in our world. There are instances when the hand of God seems to reach out and stop the dangerous or the harmful event in its course. There are other situations wherein God’s presence brings comfort in the wake of the injury or the illness. In it all, we are always granted the hope of our assurance in Christ that there is nothing that can come our way in this world that can truly and eternally harm our souls. In all situations and through each circumstance that life tosses at us, we can join the choir of faith in singing out in exultant praise the name of the Lord who protects and whose love has saved us from all harm.   

For I know the plans I have for you, declared the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29: 11

 

There is something that I want to simply admit, accept, and state for the record. To quote The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, that is, “Times are tough now, just getting tougher.” Days go by wherein the news from the world seems grim and that which comes from close to home is even harder to bear. Yet, there is a reason to continue on. We people, in general, are given some sort of innate and internal desire to see this day through and to face into the next with anticipation that its sunset will be a time of celebration to be held in response to the way that things have improved in the space that we inhabit. I think that perhaps God wired most of us with a form of optimism that has faith in the future. In some ways this enters into God’s view of things as it defies the logic of today with a dream for tomorrow.

 

That is why it is important to look toward the Lord and to seek to grasp onto His view of the future as we travel through our days. God is a realistic optimist, Himself. He knows the condition of this world, and He thoroughly understands the nature and the state of our wandering hearts. Despite the painful reality of the way that people treat God’s call to righteousness, justice, and love, He remains the Father who seeks after us, who is quick to forgive, and who pours out healing and redemption upon us as an unending gift that is given out of the depths of His nature and character. The Lord appreciates and feels the pain that is caused by the way that we treat each other and by the manner in which we selfishly do harm to His Creation in general. He participates with us in suffering through the ravages that sin is causing on and in our landscape.

 

In fact, it is God’s total and absolute understanding of the state of things here that gives me even more hope and confidence in the future. This is true because I also know who God is and how He relates to me and to others. The Lord has loved and cared for me throughout my brief history just as He has done this for people from the beginning of time. The narrative of His love, grace, and redemption stretches from the first days of the existence of the universe, and God’s promise of its continuation has no end. As we know Christ and follow God’s plan for our lives, we enter into this same narrative of redemption and the hope that comes out of it. There will be pain, and there are struggles to be endured along the way, but the Lord prevails in it all. He comforts us when we are troubled, sooths our souls when they are burdened, and binds up the wounds that are inflicted upon us with His perfect care. So, back to The Boss, as he shares his answer to the state of things in the world by saying, “Cover me, come on and cover me.” Yes, Lord, I too seek the covering shelter of your caring arms of love; come Jesus and cover me!

 

Cover Me; written by Bruce Springsteen; from album Born in the USA

Cast your burdens on the LORD,

and he will sustain you;

he will never permit

the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55: 22

 

There are days when the air, itself, seems heavy. It may be the weather, but it might also be all that is happening in life at that moment. Personal concerns, family matters, and strife and struggles in our world can all add to the density of the atmosphere. It might be so thick that the morning doesn’t bring refreshment and new energy; instead, it portends of another oppressive day of hard working steps and hope deferred. This is a tough place to be. Most of us have been there to some degree before we get too far through our allotted days. I believe that Jesus, Himself, must have experienced times like this, for He lived out His earthly life at the center of the tempest that is caused by the sinfulness of our world.

 

For Jesus there was no turning back and no vacation days, either. He was in this world for the duration as He traveled the road of redemption for Creation. In so doing, Christ demonstrated the understanding, empathy, and mercy that God holds for all of us. Jesus lived out and experienced that which God already knew, and the pain that He and that we go through and feel is something that causes God to grieve. Yet, it also serves a real and a valuable purpose for us as we navigate our way through life, for these days of heavy air, the times when the ability to draw the next breath is debatable, are times when turning to the Lord seems to be the only thing that brings real relief. When faced with the greatest of pressures and turmoil, Jesus turned to the Father in prayer with a heart and a mind that trusted in God’s presence and in His response.

 

Turning to the Lord in these times is not always an easy ting to do. People are made to be capable and to take on the challenges of life by using the resources that we possess. Yet, that may be a part of what facing into challenging days is all about, for these aspects of living are ones that do take us outside of our knowledge, skill, and strength and give us no other place to go for the capacity to enter into today than that which comes from the Lord. In this entire universe there is only one source for hope when there are no answers, there is only one trustworthy provider of wisdom that outlasts all of our worldly thinking, and there is only one place where we can go to find salvation for our remaining days and into eternity; and this is Christ. We can go to Christ with whatever breath we have at the moment, and He will hold us up and embrace our weary hearts in the loving arms of God’s boundless love and care.